Vol. 39- No. 1
p. 15 - 20
negotiations on Confidence- and
The Vienna agreement and beyond
Bruce George, MP
Long before last November's Charter of Paris for a New Europe established
the Council of Foreign Ministers, the Committee of Senior Officials, and
the Conflict Prevention Centre (CPC), security deliberations among all
CSCE participating states had been institutionalized in the negotiations
on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs). The 1975 Helsinki
Final Act had set out the first five such measures which, after unsuccessful
efforts during the Belgrade (1977-78) and Madrid (1980-83) CSCE Follow-up
Meetings, were placed on a qualitatively new footing in the 1986 Stockholm
Document including the unprecedented right to conduct on-site inspection
of military activity in the field. (1)
Initially conceived in the East-West adversarial context, CSBMs were
intended to inhibit options for surprise attack, reduce the risk of .misunderstanding
or miscalculation, and deter the threat or use of military force for purposes
of intimidation. As the Cold War faded, however, CSBMs acquired fresh
roles in the new Europe: to demonstrate mutual willingness to build confidence
and security, not simply provide evidence of the absence of feared threats
and, in the words of the Deputy Head of the Hungarian CSBM delegation
to the 1989-90 Vienna CSBM negotiations, Dr. Istvan Kormendy, to contribute,
"to redefining the security relationships among East European states
and assuring stability during transition in the region."
On 17 November 1990, after seven rounds of negotiation, a third CSBM
agreement incorporating both these traditional and novel CSBM missions
was adopted in Vienna and subsequently endorsed by the Paris Summit. Although
overshadowed by the signature at the Summit of the Conventional Armed
Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, the 52-page Vienna CSBM Document, which
came into force on 1 January 1991, constitutes an essential complement
to the CFE treaty's structural limits by increasing the transparency of
military organization and activity and deepening contacts and communications
from the Atlantic to the Urals. The CSBM agreement provides yet another
testament to NATO' s pioneering role in an era of change by largely comprising
the Alliance proposals that emerged from the White Team of the High Level
Task Force on Conventional Arms Control and the CSBM Working Groups of
the Political and Military Committees on 9 March 1989 and 23 February
and 18 May 1990 respectively.
In the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, signed on 21 November 1990,
(2) the Heads of State or Government, affirming the
6 July 1990 NATO London Declaration, stated that, "We undertake to
continue the CSBM negotiations under the same mandate, and to seek to
conclude them no later than the Follow-up Meeting of the CSCE to be held
in Helsinki in 1992", just as they looked forward to the conclusion
of a second CFE treaty by that date. The 34 leaders also decided to merge
the CFE and CSBM negotiations by 1992 in "new negotiations on disarmament
and confidence and security building open to all participating states",
as France had proposed in May 1978. Hence, as Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers
of the Netherlands put it in Paris, "With the end of the Cold War,
these negotiations - at which the whole of Europe is represented - can
only gain in importance."
The Vienna Document
The first section, entitled Annual Exchange of Military Information,
contains three new measures that substantially parallel the corresponding
- an annual information exchange on military forces down to brigade/regiment
level for ground and amphibious forces and to wing/air regiment for
air forces and naval aviation permanently based on land - including
normal peacetime locations, data that the Soviet Union had refused to
provide during the Stockholm negotiations;
- an annual information exchange on the deployment of major weapon and
equipment systems; and
- information on military budgets on the basis of the categories set
out in the United Nations, Instrument for Standardized International
Reporting Expenditures, which requires resource cost disclosures on
operating costs, operations and maintenance, procurement and construction,
and research and development for 14 items ranging from strategic to
What NATO was unable to achieve was agreement on two important proposals:
notification of the transfer of a formation or combat unit from one normal
peacetime location to another inside the zone of application, and notification
of the call-up of reservists involving at least 40,000 troops. These measures
can be expected to be considered again this year in accordance with the
CSBM mandate's requirement for negotiations on militarily significant
measures, and because of greater attention to force generation capacity
in future following the implementation of the CFE treaty.
The second section, entitled Risk Reduction, contains two new measures.
The first concerns the "mechanism for consultation and cooperation
as regards unusual military activities". This measure, of US and
Dutch origin, provides that participating states will, "consult and
cooperate with each other about any unusual and unscheduled activities
of their military forces outside their normal peacetime locations which
are militarily significant, within the zone of application for CSBMs and
about which a participating state expresses its security concern."
The state expressing concern may request an explanation or a meeting with
the responding state, and even request a meeting of all CSCE participating
states (note that the CSCE consensus rule does not apply here). The Conflict
Prevention Centre will serve as the forum for the all-34 nation meeting,
and can serve as the venue for the bilateral meeting.
Of interest is the very flexible description given of "unusual"
activity and the wide discretion vested in the requesting state - no thresholds
are established, no attempt made to define "military forces,"
"militarily significant" activities, or "security concern."
Particularly in the light of the January 1991 events in Lithuania, this
measure could help give effect and expression to the principles of the
Charter of Paris; as the Head of the German CSBM delegation, Ambassador
Giinter Joetze, stated on 1 June 1990: "Military action against a
country's own civilian population certainly falls within the category
of measures that can arouse concern and misunderstandings in other states."(3)
The other measure in this section requires the reporting and clarification
of "hazardous incidents of a military nature within the zone of application
for CSBMs in order to prevent possible misunderstandings and mitigate
the effects on another participating state." Communications will
be transmitted "preferably through the CSBM communications network",
and incidents may be discussed at the Conflict Prevention Centre.
The third section, Contacts, contains two measures. The first of these,
Visits to Air Bases, involves visits to normal peacetime air bases "in
order to provide the visitors with the opportunity to view activity at
the air bases, including preparations to carry out the functions of the
air base and to gain an impression of the approximate number of air sorties
and type of missions being flown" for a minimum of 24 hours. No participating
state will be obliged to arrange more than one such visit in any five-year
period. It is interesting to note that this is the first air CSBM not
linked to a land activity, and its implementation may suggest additional
CSBMs in the future.
The second measure in this section, Military Contacts, requires the participating
states to promote and facilitate military-to-military contacts between
senior and military defence representatives on down to military sporting
and cultural events - encouraging existing practices and building on the
1975 Helsinki Final Act measure to promote exchanges among military personnel.
The fourth section, Prior Notification of Certain Military Activities,
enhances the Stockholm notification measure by requiring information exchange
on the designation, subordination, number and type of formations and units
down to and including brigade/regiment or equivalent level (the Stockholm
provision required only number and type of divisions).
The fifth section, Observation of Certain Military Activities, contains
more changes to the Stockholm Document. First, the host state will adequately
inform its official personnel and troops about the presence, status, and
functions of observers so as to avoid risks to their safety. Second, the
map provided to observers will indicate the activity area and initial
tactical situation, and its scale cannot exceed 1 to 250,000 - half the
Stockholm ratio. Third, whereas under the Stockholm regime, observers
were only permitted personal binoculars, they will now also be permitted
to use personal maps, photo and video cameras, dictaphones, and hand-held
passive night vision devices. Fourth, an aerial survey of the observation
area is encouraged. Fifth, at the close of the observations, time will
be allowed for a discussion of impressions with host state officials and
military representatives of other states engaged in the activity, if applicable.
Finally, media representatives should be invited from all participating
states and treated equally.
A flaw in the Vienna CSBM observation regime, however, concerns the failure
to close the gap between the Stockholm notification and observation thresholds
which, for exercises and concentrations, stay at 13,000 and 17,000 troops,
respectively. In view of the ever dwindling level of troops participating
in exercises throughout Europe - only four Soviet activities were notified
for 1991 compared to 16 in 1988 - it may well prove that unless the observation
and notification thresholds are brought down to the same levels, as NATO
had proposed, these Vienna improvements will rarely be put to use. If,
in fact, lack of time to negotiate this improvement was the sole reason
for retention of the gap, then it should be easily corrected during 1991.
NATO was also unable to have the observation extended until 24 hours after
troop levels fall below the observation threshold, which presumably would
have assisted in determining that the exercise was actually being run
The sixth section, Annual Calendars, essentially tidies up some points
that were unclear in the Stockholm Document by requiring, inter alia,
notification one year in advance of the fact that no military activity
subject to prior notification is planned, and immediate notification of
a cancelled activity or changes to the activity threshold which would
bring it below the notification level.
The seventh section, Constraining Provisions, lowers the threshold for
activities requiring notification two years in advance from 75,000 to
40,000 troops. This section retains the Stockholm escape clause which
allows a notifiable military activity to be carried out without inclusion
in the annual calendar, but it could, of course, always be subject to
inspection, discussion in the context of the unusual military activities
measure, and review in the annual implementation meeting as well as in
the Conflict Prevention Centre.
The eighth section, Compliance and Verification, covers inspection and
a new measure, evaluation. Regarding inspection, considered so innovative
when adopted in 1986, Hungary, also on behalf of Poland and Czechoslovakia,
registered an interpretative statement to the effect that the three countries
may inspect and evaluate any participating state. This contrasts with
a declaration in 1986 by the then Hungarian People's Republic, on behalf
of "the delegations of Socialist states," that parties to the
treaty of the same alliance would not carry out inspections on each other's
The new measure, evaluation, requires each state to accept a quota of
one evaluation visit to its normal peacetime locations for every 60 brigades/
regiments reported in the information exchange measures. No state is obliged
to accept more than 15 visits per calendar year, with the Soviet Union
having sought a lower quota on grounds of undue hardship in view of the
already taxing CFE verification provisions. A right of refusal does exist
when "formations or units may be in their normal peacetime location
but be unavailable for evaluation," but this right can only be invoked
five times per year. The evaluation measure applies only to active units,
with a solution to be found in the continuing negotiations regarding non-active
units activated for routine training purposes.
The ninth section, Communications, establishes a direct communications
link between capitals for transmission of messages related to agreed measures.
Participating states "may agree among themselves to use the network
for other purposes", e.g. CFE treaty implementation or even non-military
aspects of security and cooperation in Europe. As the Head of the Italian
CSBM Delegation, Ambassador Massimiliano Bandini, observed, the communications
link, in addition to its practical advantages over normal diplomatic channels,
"would also be of considerable political value, since, once operational,
it would enable the governments of the participating states to be in constant
contact. Especially in times of crisis, this could prove vital. Moreover,
the initiative would also have a positive impact on European public opinion
as a concrete step toward the construction of the Europe of the future.
The tenth and final section, Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting,
provides that a meeting will be held each year within the Conflict Prevention
Centre to discuss implementation. The Charter of Paris, which actually
created the Vienna-based CPC, tasked it, "to assist the Council (of
CSCE Foreign Ministers) in reducing the risk of conflict." During
its initial stages, the CPC will support CSBM implementation, but it "might
assume other functions" in future - such as facilitating the peaceful
resolution of any CSCE-related dispute through means such as conciliation
and arbitration. The Valletta CSCE Meeting of Experts, held from 15 January
to 8 February, examined ways of complementing existing methods for achieving
peaceful resolution of disputes. The report of the Valletta meeting did
not refer to the CPC, but does permit any party to a dispute "of
importance to peace, security, or stability among the participating states"
to bring the dispute before the Committee of Senior Officials.
In the introduction to the Vienna CSBM Document, paragraph seven states
that, "proposals which have been submitted remain subject to further
negotiations." No doubt the continuing negotiations will consider
the NATO measures that did not find their way into the 1990 Vienna Document
- notification of reserve call-ups and of base-to-base transfers, certain
improvements to observation and inspection, an information exchange three
years in advance on infrastructure upgrading, and improved access for
accredited personnel dealing with military matters (the last measure having
met with the curious Soviet objection, despite the Madrid Mandate, that
it would not affect North American territory).
Regarding other delegations, the neutral and non-aligned countries may
endeavour to widen the Stockholm measures regarding amphibious landings
and parachute assaults, whereas the Soviet Union can be expected to argue
for constraints on military activity and expand notifiable activities
to include independent air and naval activity. The interesting Hungarian-Czechoslovak-Polish
proposal of 18 May 1990 for bilateral measures tailored to specific regional
needs may also be reviewed, because as US Secretary of State James Baker
suggested on 7 February 1990: "We should consider new proposals to
promote greater military transparency between neighbouring states, especially
along border areas." Whether or not such "complementary"
or "neighbourhood" CSBMs are adopted in the negotiations at
34 or in a smaller setting, they could further help stabilize regions
of latent tension in Central and Eastern Europe.
In the first public commentary on the Vienna CSBM Document, a plenary
resolution unanimously adopted in London on 29 November 1990 by the North
Atlantic Assembly (5) raised possible future directions
for the CSCE participating states to consider:
First, it is perhaps time to go beyond notification, observation, and
inspection by negotiating constraints on the permissible level and other
characteristics of military activities in Europe. The 12 October 1990
German-Soviet Treaty governing Soviet troop withdrawals already provides
that no Soviet military activities in the territory of the former GDR
will exceed 13,000 troops - a limit intended also to apply to the activity
of foreign NATO forces in the former GDR territory under the 12 September
1990 Treaty on the Final Settlement with respect to Germany. (6)
Why not apply this constraint to all 34 states, so as to help prevent
potentially threatening military behaviour from the outset?
Second, perhaps the agreed right to question unusual military activities
could be applied to those conducted inside normal peacetime locations,
such as aircraft stand-downs or command post and command field exercises,
although verification difficulties would certainly arise.
Third, information exchanges could be extended to include information
on the production of weapons and equipment. This would not only allow
enhanced transparency of trends in defence capabilities but shed light
on international arms transfers (the CFE treaty does not cover production
or weapons for export). The problem of the exclusion of North America
and the Soviet Union east of the Urals could be dealt with outside the
CSCE context. Information could also cover border police and organizations
designed and structured to perform security functions in peacetime.
Fourth, thresholds for notification should be reviewed, reflecting the
trend toward smaller-scale exercises which leads to the absence of any
notifiable activity from an increasing number of states with its consequent
impact on military transparency. NATO's original 6,000 troop threshold
advanced in 1984 in Stockholm may seem more appropriate in these circumstances
than the Stockholm and Vienna threshold of 13,000 troops.
Fifth, in view of the greatly increased warning time available to the
Alliance, could the exception to advance notification in the case of an
alert be abandoned or narrowed further by annual quotas of alerts or geographic
Sixth, the key to stable parliamentary democracies in Europe are the
parliamentarians themselves. A recurrent theme in discussions with legislators
from the new democracies of Europe concerns problems of parliamentary
oversight. Why not invite parliamentary representation in CSBM activity,
such as the military doctrine seminar, and allow accredited personnel
as well as parliamentarians from other participating states to attend
parliamentary debates such as on defence budgets? The results of the military
doctrine seminar should also be made publically available, and its scope
broadened to cover questions such as defence conversion.
There also exists the conceptual challenge of reconciling a potential
overlap between CFE and CSBMs and preparing for the united negotiation
by 1992. This will include considering what elements of a follow-on CFE
1A regime might be dealt with just as easily as CSBMs. The NATO proposal
of 21 September 1989 for CFE stabilization measures comprised:
However, the resulting CFE treaty only contains the third and fourth of
these measures, leaving out the important issues of reserve call-ups, movement
of ground equipment, and constraints - which many observers regard as serious
flaws in the CFE regime, noting that equilibrium in numbers of weapons and
equipment cannot itself prove stabilizing without attention to the operational
aspects of military forces.
- notification of the call-up of reservists at or exceeding 40,000 troops;
- notification of the movement of ground, treaty-limited equipment from
one location to another within the zone above agreed thresholds;
- a limit on equipment in active units and monitored storage of equipment
beyond that limit;
- a limit on armoured vehicle assault bridges in active units and monitored
storage of equipment beyond that limit; and
- a constraint on the size of military activities involving more than
40,000 troops or 800 main battle tanks.
All this suggests that the CSBM dish is not full after the Vienna Document,
but that careful attention will have to be devoted to the question of what
measures genuinely promote confidence and security as opposed to simply
keeping up the momentum of the negotiations for the sake of momentum itself.
The fact that NATO has proved able to advance the ideas that have consistently
come to form the basis for consensus, constitutes a great credit to the
sixteen nations, as well as a challenge for the future.
The author wishes to thank John B or aw ski, director of the North Atlantic
Assembly' s Political Committee, for his assistance in the preparation
of this article.
(1) See "The CSBM negotiations in Vienna: a commitment
to build a new European military security system". Ambassador Massimiliano
Bandini, NATO Review, No.5, October 1990, p. 12. As ol end December 1990,
44 inspections had been conducted.
(2) For text, see NATO Review, No.6, December 1990,p.26.
(3) On 14 January 1991 the North Atlantic Council strongly
condemned the use of violence by the Soviet Armed Forces and actions to
undermine the democratically elected authorities of Lithuania, and appealed
to the Soviet authorities to implement fully the Soviet Union's CSCE commitments.
(4) See note I,p.l5
(5) The North Atlantic Assembly is an independent parliamentary
body with no formal links to NATO. The NAA provides a forum where elected
representatives from the 16 NATO member countries can discuss and act
upon the issues they consider of vital importance to the Atlantic Alliance.
(6) According to the US Principal Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, James Dobbins, on
4 October 1990, USIS Wireless File 193, 5 October 1990, p.15.